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WFS has joined a growing group of companies, including Amazon and United Airlines, that are rejecting traditional plastics.
The company has signed an agreement with M&G Packaging, which makes biodegradable plastics for the air cargo industry.
One roll of plastic 747 pallet cover is the equivalent of 2,520 water bottles; the air cargo industry uses some 12,500 tons of plastic each year.
With 50 water bottles weighing one pound, this means the industry uses 1.25 billion ‘water bottles’ each year. And more than 90% of plastics go straight to landfill, with just 9% recycled – none of air cargo’s plastic wrapping is recycled.
WFS says it uses the equivalent of 27 million plastic water bottles a year in protective plastic sheeting and wrap, but this will now be made with M&G’s BioNatur, a plastic partly made with a plant-based biopolymer. This biodegrades in landfill, not leaving micro plastics.
And the new plastic has a longer shelf life, is stronger and more puncture resistant. It produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing process and uses significantly less oil-based resin than current plastic products.
Speaking to The Loadstar on the sidelines of Air Cargo Americas in Miami yesterday, Charles Rick, M&G’s president, said he hoped to come away from the show with everybody signed up to use biodegradable plastics.
“Why wouldn’t you? What reason could you have for not using biodegradable plastic?” he asked.
The BioNatur product is also at a “competitive” pricing level with standard plastics. Mr Rick said price had been a barrier to entry to the market, but while the new plastic costs M&G between 3% and 5% more to make than traditional plastic, M&G would be absorbing the extra cost.
“We want to retain our customer base, and they don’t want to pay more.”
It takes up to five years for BioNatur to degrade in landfill, while traditional plastics take between 500 and 1,000 years. While there are oxo-degradable plastics, they break down quickly into smaller pieces, but not at a molecular level, leaving toxic residuals.
“Worldwide Flight Services is excited to be the first major customer of these environmentally friendly products in the air cargo industry,” said Mike Simpson, its executive vice president for the Americas.
“With this commitment we can make a significant contribution to the environment. We are thrilled to finally have a product that ensures this plastic will not languish in a landfill for decades.”
M&G will be presenting its product next month at Tiaca’s sustainability awards in Budapest.